What Is (Not) a Brand?
#10 American Marketing Association

Published by Jan Knap, M.D. on September 15, 2020.

In Under the Nanoscope: What Is (Not) a Brand? series, we select one definition of a brand from a well respected source and examine it under our nanoscope.

The Statement

A brand is a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers. The legal term for brand is trademark.

— Source: The American Marketing Association (2017)

The Facts

Argument #1: Infinite Set of Variables

This is not a definition. This is a list of random words, with already defined meanings, implying to be also a brand. Describing a brand by already defined terms does not explain what a brand is. It just connects one term with another without any substantial evidence why exactly this—and only this association—must apply.

Critical flaw in this statement, though, is the part “...or any other feature...”. Why do we need any definition? It is supposed to set general rules for deciding what something is or is not. In this particular case, authors resign on setting those rules—in fact they leave it on you... You, or anybody else, can decide what “other features are”. This is the opposite of defining a set of rules—this is embodiment of anarchy and chaos.

Argument #2: Trademark Is a Trademark

We can use here proof by contradiction: Suppose any name were a brand. Then it could be true that any name of any seller’s good or service is a brand, too. We know by simple logic that this conclusion is wrong. Otherwise a local guy named Petr Hus who sells hotdogs in a small village near Prague would have a brand. Well, he does not! But he has a name.


This is not a definition of a brand. It is just a description of something that authors claim should be a brand. Eventually, we learn that the legal term for brand is trademark. Well, it looks like “no lawyers, no brand”.

Under the Nanoscope Series
What Is (Not) a Brand?

We focus on finding answers to the deepest questions in branding to separate beliefs from fact by science.